51 Biltmore Avenue project moves one step forward

On Tuesday, Dec. 14, Asheville City Council members held a short work session as well as a regular meeting (see below for a compilation of live dispatches from Xpress Senior News Reporter David Forbes).

At the work session, they

• Reviewed maps of areas for potential annexation and discussed the annexation issue in general, such as state law, service requirements and Asheville’s rank compared to other cities that use annexation in North Carolina (14th).

During their regular meeting, Council members took the following actions

• Voted 5-1 to remove unopened rights of way and streets on the Montford Commons property (Council member Gordon Smith voted against the measure, and Council member Bill Russell was absent.)

• Removed the sale of Civic Center ice-rink equipment from the consent agenda in order to allow “further discussion,” such as a possible deal with the Asheville Hockey Association.

• Approved the Housing Authority’s pursuit of a $5 million grant that could pay for renovations or a new building at the Reid Community Center — or allow current tenants to buy the building and fix it up.

• Voted 4-2 in support of a Jan. 11 hearing about financing the construction of a hotel with a public parking deck at 51 Biltmore Ave. Council members Smith and Cecil Bothwell voted against it.

Twitter dispatches from the meeting by David Forbes
3:16 p.m. Council reviews map of potential areas for annexation in pre-meeting work session

3:18 p.m. Areas on map have reached urban level of development, have growth potential, meet some of NC requirements

3:20 p.m. Mayor Terry Bellamy asks if any of I-26 in city, Planner Blake Esselton: No, airport still not connected to city

3:22 p.m. Bellamy: We should tell staff what types of annexation we want to pursue, and why

3:25 p.m. Council balked at 700+ resident Royal Pines annexation earlier this year

3:26 p.m. Esselton: City can’t take on expense to install sewer/water in newly annexed areas, so usually doesn’t consider areas w/out

3:28 p.m. City Attorney Bob Oast: even though city doesn’t directly provide sewer, has to provide in newly annexed areas

3:29 p.m. Bellamy: Woodfin’s been very aggressive in annexation, doesn’t usually provide sewer

3:33 p.m. Bellamy: Can we stop providing sewer to newly annexed areas?

Oast: Way I’m reading law, with involuntary annexations, would be tricky

3:35 p.m. Bellamy: Not sure why we build sewer lines, but not sidewalks Oast: We aren’t required to, but Council could require it Bellamy: Let’s

3:37 p.m. Bothwell wondering about annexation of commercial areas. Esselton: A lot of recent annexations are commercial, especially near Airport Road

3:39 p.m. Council member Gordon Smith: How do we rate alongside other cities in how aggressively we annex? Staff: Asheville used to be in Top 10 now No. 14

3:41 p.m. Bellamy: Have largest water system in WNC, but not allowed to charge different rates to outlying areas, need latitude to change that

3:43 p.m. Staff: Asheville not even in Top 20 cities for annexation recent years

3:44 p.m. Smith asking about possible changes to state annexation laws, Oast: only objectionable measure would be referendum requirement

3:46 p.m. Council member Esther Manheimer: [N.C.] Sen. [Tom] Apodaca wants forced annexation gone, he’s now rules chair.

3:47 p.m. Manheimer: “We need to plan for a future without forced annexation”

3:49 p.m. Bellamy: If annexation goes, but we still can’t use water to grow, community in trouble. Smith: They’ll be draining our resources

3:51 p.m. Bellamy: “we need to be proactive with our legislators” on water issue

3:53 p.m. Smith: Want to hear from everyone: how aggressive are we going to be?

3:55 p.m. Davis: Feel Apodaca “doesn’t want to cut the legs from under the biggest city in his district”

3:56 p.m. Davis: Apodaca has to understand that Asheville’s been denied this tool for a while and if annexation goes, need to have way to grow

3:57 p.m. Davis: right now don’t see any areas immediately worth risk of annexation given legislative uncertainty

3:58 p.m. Bothwell: “need to find ways to tax people from outside city for being here” wants to look at incentives for city residents

3:59 p.m. Bothwell, joking: “I don’t know, maybe we should collar them, steal their wallets”

4:01 p.m. Manheimer doesn’t want to go forward with major annexation efforts: “It’s easier to negotiate with someone when you’re not pissing them off”

4:02 p.m. Bothwell: Not that we shouldn’t talk to Apodaca, but if the law’s going to change, “this is our only chance” for annexations

4:03 p.m. Bellamy: There will be pro-annexation lobbying, need to take position. Davis: that’s premature

4:04 p.m. City Manager Gary Jackson: Off the record, League of Municipality representatives urging caution to towns, cities

4:07 p.m. Jackson: “Unique” annexations might be OK, should avoid “poster-child, Fayetteville-style, 40-square-mile annexations”

4:09 p.m. Manheimer: Shouldn’t wait till bill drafts to come out, need to be proactive in negotiations

4:14 p.m. To clarify, Jackson was quoting off-the-record statements in public chambers, he didn’t talk off the record to me

4:15 p.m. Bellamy: City lost out in water agreement fight because “others were unified” while Council was not

4:17 p.m. Manheimer: Whole negotiation process “is like herding cats”

4:19 p.m. Vice Mayor Brownie Newman and Council member Bill Russell (who opposes forced annexation) absent from work session

4:21 p.m. At Council’s direction, staff will “wait and see” on any new annexations for the next few months

4:22 p.m. Work session adjourned

4:29 p.m. Thank you everyone sending feedback, discussion via Regular meeting starts at 5 p.m.

5:16 p.m. City recognizes engineering intern from Saumier, France, & AFD Assistant Chief Kelly Hines certified as 1 of 20 accredited Fire Officers in world

5:17 p.m. Council now recognizing Biltmore Farms donation of an easement to Dingle Creek wetlands project

5:22 p.m. Also: Jan. 10-17 designated M.L. King Jr week in Asheville

5:23 p.m. Correction: The intern is from Saumur, France, one of Asheville’s sister cities

5:27 p.m. Sale of Civic Center ice rink and equipment pulled from consent agenda for further discussion

5:29 p.m. Hutch Kearns, head of Asheville Hockey League, glad Council is pulling matter, tells them he looks forward to discussion of rink’s future

5:31 p.m. Vote to close unopened rights of way and city streets within proposed Montford Commons area passes 5-1, Smith against

5:32 p.m. Davis praising hockey league, noting this move “comes as kind of a surprise” but Civic Center isn’t best arena for it

5:33 p.m. Davis: this is an opportunity to find a better spot for ice & hockey facilities, looks forward to partnerships

5:35 p.m. Council agrees to pull ice rink equipment sale for future consideration

5:36 p.m. Civic Center Director Sam Powers: Will know more about Civic Center renovations in Jan., can plan better then

5:38 p.m. Oast: Looking into finding way to donate equipment to an organization

5:42 p.m. Jackson: We’ll come back to you with options, way sale of equipment involved in Civic Center finances/renovation

5:45 p.m. Council will receive more information, make decision on ice rink equipment in next 4 months

5:48 p.m. Presentation on Crossroads publication focusing on “complicated, painful” ‘70s urban renewal in Asheville

5:52 p.m. Dwight Mullen, UNCA: “Urban renewal has not gone away, impacts all too painful” destroyed/damaged minority neighborhoods

5:54 p.m. Mullen offering help of UNCA, students in city projects to help address damage, effects

5:55 p.m. Asheville GO head/Burton St Assoc head DeWayne Barton: Investment in restoring infrastructure a must, “a lot of people hurting”

5:58 p.m. Bellamy: I look forward to collaborations, should contact Jackson to discuss further

5:59 p.m. Parks and Recreation director Roderick Simmons updating Council on Reid Center

6:01 p.m. Staff: Due to age, state of facilities value estimated at $254,000, which might not cover cost of demolition

6:02 p.m. David Nash of Housing Authority: Current tenants like Asheville GO, authority, other nonprofits want to continue using space

6:04 p.m. Nash: An available HUD grant of up to $5 million might allow tenants to purchase building, renovate or build new facility

6:06 p.m. Nash: We’d need an option to purchase the property to pursue grant

6:07 p.m. Nash: we’ll know if we’ve got grant within 4-5 months

6:08 p.m. Nash: So far, community input has been positive

6:10 p.m. Newman supports Housing Authority pursuing grant, Smith seconds

6:11 p.m. Motion to back Housing Authority in pursuing grant passes unanimously

6:12 p.m. Russell absent tonight due to family obligation

6:20 p.m. Council considering agreement with 4 major organizations who do utility cuts (MSD, PSNC, Water Dept, Stormwater) to set up fund for repairs

6:21 p.m. Council taking up update on 51 Biltmore hotel/retail/parking deck project

6:21 p.m. Motion to set up fund passes 6-0

6:23 p.m. City Admin Director Lauren Bradley: Project helps with density, growth downtown. 115-unit hotel would be done by private company.

6:25 p.m. Parking garage 5 1/2 levels, 412 spaces. Project would be located next to Double Decker bus coffee shop on Biltmore

6:26 p.m. Bradley: McKibben hotel group has financing for hotel, city studies indicate need for 426 to 622 more parking spaces in area

6:28 p.m. Bradley: If private part doesn’t move forward, staff believes city can find another company. Parking needed regardless

6:29 p.m. Debt financing for project ($15.5 mil) will be paid for out of parking fees from deck, parking enterprise fund

6:32 p.m. Newman makes motion to approve public hearing for financing, lease space for construction

6:33 p.m. Bothwell: Wants to see transit options instead of more parking spaces, for $14 million we could build 4-mile trolley system

6:34 p.m. Transport Director Ken Putnam: We didn’t study those options, just checked validity of original study

6:35 p.m. Bothwell: Why is the per-acre cost so much? Cathy Ball: Alternatives to purchasing land weren’t feasible for city

6:36 p.m. Ball: This deal better than lease, a rare opportunity to have this much connected space in downtown

6:39 p.m. Bothwell: “Seems to me we’re acting on plan developed in different economic times.” Facing peak oil, should consider trolleys, shuttles

6:41 p.m. Smith: Parking is part of it, “but we can’t just do parking and solve this problem”

6:41 p.m. Smith: Problem is convenience and mobility, more than one solution, we do need a multi-tiered approach.

6:44 p.m. Brad Purchett, one of analysts who did study: we considered parking demand for existing land uses in area, nearby areas

6:45 p.m. Smith: “Vast majority of time there’s plenty of parking” concerned too many spaces will spur more car use

6:45 p.m. Smith: So it’s not based on how transit might change? Purchett: It’s based on existing land use

6:47 p.m. Purchett: At peak times, hard to find parking on Biltmore, you don’t provide parking, people won’t come downtown

6:48 p.m. Purchett: Alternate transit can help some, but there’s significant demand, and have to figure operation costs

6:50 p.m. Smith: how does parking fit into smart growth? Purchett: Setting a parking policy that realizes there’s a cost to it

6:52 p.m. Newman: Don’t think we’ve ever developed detailed plan for routes, rates, etc. for downtown shuttle

6:54 p.m. Smith: We’re talking about $15 million here, that’s money we can’t spend on sidewalks or other improvements

6:55 p.m. Davis: First Presbyterian Church, others have expressed desire to use spaces in new deck, so there is demand

6:56 p.m. Newman: “If we’re going to build one more project in the near future, this is it. In right part of downtown”

6:58 p.m. Newman: Some people laugh at trolley systems, but used by cities smaller than Asheville, should look at it

6:59 p.m. 51 Biltmore resolutions on Jan. 11 financing hearing, space for construction pass 4-2, Smith and Bothwell against

7:04 p.m. Oast now reviewing Council’s state legislative priorities

7:08 p.m. Matters include Woodfin-Asheville boundary in UNCA area, provision for using water service in annexation

7:10 p.m. Oast also points to matters like privatizing ABC system, consolidating Asheville-Buncombe school systems as other areas of interest

7:15 p.m. Newman moves to back Woodfin boundary, local net, water annexation, energy financing legislation, withdraws at Bellamy’s behest

7:16 p.m. Bellamy doesn’t think public had enough notice: “we usually get 1-2 people from public to speak on this.” Newman: “It’s on the agenda”

7:18 p.m. City unanimously extends date for enactment of sustainable development incentives so Sustainability Committee can suggest revisions

7:20 p.m. Council discussing school board reappointments

7:21 p.m. Smith: Given possibility of state forcing consolidation, might want to open process. Bellamy, Newman: experience, continuity important

7:26 p.m. Kyle Ross: Problems with APD, DA, have 35-40 minutes. Since only allowed 3, will be here for next few Council meetings too

7:27 p.m. As Ross talks about an officer dismissed in past, Bellamy notes that Council can’t respond about personnel issues

7:29 p.m. Ross feels “top-level officials are breaking the law” causes recruitment problems, time runs out. Bellamy recommends she talk to City Mgr

7:31 p.m. Public comment over, Council goes into closed session to discuss legal matters

7:32 p.m. Clarification in school board vote: Council reappointed Precious Folston, Jacquelyn Hallum to another term

7:33 p.m. Council will take no action, adjourn directly after closed session


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9 thoughts on “51 Biltmore Avenue project moves one step forward

  1. BigAl

    Wow. Asheville wants more annexation to squeeze locals and Bothwell cracks jokes about mugging tourists. All the while giving away money-making ice-rink assets.

    What a friendly, intelligent and diverse town.

  2. twinkie223

    Please please please do not report city council meetings in a twitter feed. The fact that the city is in the process of committing itself to spending $15 million of our tax dollars to help finance construction of a $30 million private hotel is simply lost in the format.

    Downtown doesn’t need another hotel and taxpayers certainly shouldn’t be footing the bill to build one. Thank you Cecil Bothwell for trying to stop yet another tax giveaway to a private corporation.

  3. Chip Kaufmann

    Will the Hot Dog King be allowed to open a space in the new hotel? Somehow I doubt it. Say goodbye to one of the few truly affordable places to eat downtown.

  4. dpewen

    I look forward to this addition to downtown .. I live downtown and the more development the better … and yes, I pay lots of taxes and do not eat hot dogs … yuk food.

  5. hauntedheadnc

    I look forward to this addition as well, especially considering that once upon a time, a hotel occupied the site where that parking lot is now located. In an urban environment, surface parking is a waste of space. I’d like to see all the downtown surface parking replaced with nice, dense, urban development — of the sort that the surface parking replaced years ago.

    You were aware that the parking lots downtown replaced buildings, some of them several stories tall? I see development like this as Asheville just getting back to its roots.

  6. dpewen

    Nice post and I don’t know a lot about the Asheville history. Downtown is where development should be … not sprawl like most american cities.

  7. hauntedheadnc

    [i]Downtown is where development should be … not sprawl like most american cities.[/i]

    Indeed. Asheville is uniquely screwed among all the cities and towns in North Carolina thanks to the Sullivan Acts, which require by law that the city fling its water lines out to whichever developer is building whichever new clot of suburban sprawl. And, it looks increasingly likely that the new Republican-controlled state government will take even the tool of annexation away from the state’s cities.

    This means that Asheville’s one and only way of expanding its tax base (which helps to pay for all these parks and art and everything else we enjoy here) is to make building and developing inside the city limits as easy and attractive as developing and building in the county. The city has already taken a step toward making itself more accommodating for good urban growth by adopting the recommendations of the downtown master plan, which sets easily understandable requirements for new architecture and makes it so that a project doesn’t progress all the way up to city council only to be turned down because someone on the city council is having a bad hair day and doesn’t feel like approving anything at the moment.

    The city could do more toward the goal of attracting development into downtown and away from the county by recognizing the value of rebuilding the urban environment we used to have here. Sure, groups such as PARC (so named because it sounded better than People Advocating No Development Whatsoever Anywhere Anymore) will oppose growth, but that’s what they do and who they are. If downtown were to be flattened by an earthquake, they would likely protest any plan to rebuild it and demand that the land be set aside for a dog park or some such.

    Asheville used to be much more densely built up, and downtown’s streets and sidewalks used to be a lot busier. The NIMBY’s might hate it, but by attracting growth to downtown and filling up all these parking lots, Asheville is, again, just getting back to the way it used to be before urban “renewal” raised its ugly head here.

  8. BigAl

    I have no opinion on a new hotel downtown, but I have always been wary of those who argue the lack of parking downtown. I used to go downtown every weekend and never had trouble finding a space at either deck on Rankin. I could spend hours downtown and still only pay $2. Only when there was an event and the price jumps to $7 daily have I been inconvenienced, and I don’t begrudge downtown the extra income those days.

    The difference is that when I go downtown, I walk from the civic center/library to the other end of town and back, and consider the stroll as part of the charm of the day . Too many visitors (and some locals, it seems) want their parking to be right on the curb or just around the corner from the one business that they plan their visit around. They are horrified at the prospect of having to walk even one block to get to their destination, in spite of the opportunity to enjoy the rest of downtown. Such folk will never be satisfied, no matter how many decks spring up downtown.

    I do support more vertical development downtown i/o more sprawl “downstream”.

    Will the parking deck attached to this hotel charge $.50 hourly like the city lots, or $5/day like the decks uphill at DWT and the banks?

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